Saturday, November 30, 2002

Presidential Musings-This 2004 presidential campaign will be the first blogged presidential campaign, giving political junkies both ways to communicate their candidates views and to read up on the views of others. There's already a Howard Dean blog up. Dean is the kind of quirky candidate, being a pro-second-amendment liberal, that might sneak up on people like Gary Hart did twenty years ago. Let's look at the likely field, which at this point is Gore, Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt and Dean. You've also got the possibility of Al Sharpton actually being a playa, but he's likely to get a 3-5% radical black protest vote at best at this point. Daschle's thinking about a run, but he doesn't have any good political ecology to run in with Gore and Kerry already running. The one thing that strikes me about the bunch is how liberal they are; there isn't a DLC guy in the bunch. You have five varying shades of liberal. Gore and Kerry are your new-establishment liberal, Edwards is the new-establishment-populist, Gephardt is the old-establishment New Deal liberal and Dean's a wild card liberal. I've got five questions for the campaign. The answers will likely decide the nomination. Does Gore have a Southern edge?-Not any more; it's been 12 years since he ran for office in Tennessee and has become an establishment liberal, even running well to the left on Iraq and on single-payer health care. Also, the South of 1988 isn't the South of 2004. Gore might play well in the Ideopolis south, but the down-home Atticus-Finch-goes-to-Washington motif is offset by his modern voting record and platforms in the old South. Edwards is the New South's Atticus Finch, the crusading civil-litigation lawyer rather than the crusading defense attorney; Finch didn't get rich enough to finance his own Senate run. The old-school south is up for grabs. The person who represents small-town values best will do well here. Who gets the Nugent Democrats?-In the South and Midwest, you have a large chunk of blue-collar voters that enjoy hunting and the outdoors. A pro-gun Democrat could make inroads. Look for Dean to surprise in this area, the Yankee could do very nicely, if he can do a sprightly tap-dance around the civil-union issue, but he could do well with the rural blue-collar folks.. Gephardt could do well here as well. Who gets the crunchy Democrats?-There's that block of liberal voters that will look for an anti-establishment edge, Gore doesn't have that anymore, for he's the personification of the modern establishment liberal. His pitch for single-payer health care might help, but I don't think he'll get the Green Weenies hot and bothered. If Dean gets some momentum, he could grab some of that student-aging-hippie vote, but if not, expect a solid Green push in 2004. Who gets the establishment black vote?I don't have a clue. The black vote might be either a non-issue, as all the players are liberal enough on affirmative-action issues as to make the issue moot, or we could see a lot of brown-nosing of key black leaders. Who gets the Latino vote, especially in Texas and California?No comprende. This might be a key area as those two big primaries come up. Immigration reform and bilingual ed could cut both ways, as activists will want liberal policies on both, while everyday people will have a more conservative stance on both issues. At this point, you've got five candidates who have a legitimate shot at the nomination. Gore and Kerry will divide up the new-liberal establishment vote, Gephardt will get the labor vote, Edwards will get the young-vibrant-populist vote and Dean will get an odd Green-'n-Gun coalition cooking. Each can get to 20% without too much trouble (Gore and Kerry are already there with the party establishment), but getting to the 35-40% that will be needed to get the nomination will require reaching out beyond the establishment Anglo-liberal vote. Lots of questions, few answers. The key first test will be whether Gore and Kerry can break out as the establishment choice. If one does emerge, they will likely get the nomination. If they are going mano-a-mano through 2003, each getting 25-30% of the vote, one of the other candidates has a shot of emerging to challenge them. The second test will be to see if one of the other three gets enough into the teens to be seen as the Third Candidate. Press coverage doesn't do well in multi-candidate races and want to distill the race down to two or three faces. If none of the three does well, then you'll see two stock pieces, the Gore-Kerry fight for the establishment vote and the Gephardt-Edwards-Dean off-brand fight for third. If none of the second pack emerges cleanly and the Gore-Kerry race stays too-close-to-call, we could see a five-horse race all the way to Boston.

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